December 15, 2007

The Implementation of the Statewide Ban’s Smooth Flavor

One month into the statewide smoking Michael Rasmussen has no real huffs or puffs about it.
As the manager of a Perkins Restaurant in Apple Valley, Rasmussen says he has yet to notice any drop in his business because of the ban, although many of his longtime customers smoked.
“On the thirtieth (of September) we had a sort of vigil,? he said, referring to the date the ban became law on Oct. 1.
“I’d be lying if I didn’t say we all have mixed feelings about it. It was a nice luxury and our customers loved it but some of the waiters and customers would complain.?
Rasmussen said he has had to remind a few customers in his 24 hour restaurant on the corner of County Road 42 and Cedar Avenue.
“They have all been cooperative,? Rasmussen said.
Since the October first implementation of the Freedom to Breathe Act state agencies responsible for the enforcement and monitoring of the ban have very little to complain about.
The role of indoor air enforcement at the Minnesota Department of Health however, lands squarely on one man’s shoulders: Dale Dorschner.
“I can’t take all the credit,? said Dorschner Supervisor of the Indoor Air Program for the Minnesota Department of Health.
Dorschner explained that through a number of meetings and video conferences his department has enlisted and coordinated the support of a number of local organizations as well as the American Lung Association, Blue Cross Blue Shield, and American Cancer Society.
“These organizations act as a conduit for enforcement,? said Dorschner. “They make accessible the means of reporting infractions on a local level.?
Dorschner and the Department of Health have notified 31 businesses that still need work in complying with the law and have yet to take any stricter means of enforcement.
“Thankfully, Minnesotans are good, law abiding people,? said Dr. Jane Korn medical director for the Health Promotion and Chronic Disease Division at the Minnesota Department of Health.
Dr. Korn’s department is comparatively average and with ten people the responsibility for informing an entire state’s businesses of the new law is a tall order.
“We get a lot of help,? said Dr. Korn.
Dr. Korn said her division is largely driven by a fund program designed to get money into the hands of smaller community-based organizations that can then effect change and implement the law through largely volunteer policies and programs to deter the tobacco industry’s influence on youth.
“We have many organizations as allies, and with a state where the ban is supported by sixty some percent, we expected a smooth implementation and have seen it thus far,? said Dr. Korn.
Of the organizations that have assisted the Minnesota Department of Health the American Lung Association stands out.
For their part, the American Lung Association has been involved with similar legislation since the seventies and the transition to the new law has been prepared for a long time.
“Minnesota had the first state-wide smoking ban in 1975,? said Bob Mawson the Communications Director at the Minnesota’s division of the American Lung Association.
“This law basically closed the loophole in that older law that we have championed since 1975.?
Mawson said his organization has reported very few complaints since Oct. 1.
“There has and will always be grumbling about the law, but the truth is the majority of Minnesotans want clean air and that’s what they get.?

October 28, 2007

Link to Iran may end steel deal with India

Both the Star Tribune and MPR are covering a developing story in the iron range. The Strib is reporting that a deal with Indian company Essar Global to build a $1.6 billion taconite mill on the Iron Range may be on the rocks, just three days after it was announced, because of the company's developing ties with Iran. And that according to other news reports Essar is in negotiations to build an oil refinery in southern Iran. This connection to a company with ties to Iran could violate U.S. law regarding terrorist nations. The Strib's piece is much more thorough with a significant portion of the article devoted to the Nashwauk area that would be affected by the loss of such a lucrative project. There are discrepancies between the two reports however. For instance the Strib reports that the deal would yield Nashwauk around 700 new jobs. Mpr is reporting 2,700. The discrepancy might be within full-time workers and construction contractors. The Strib is also more thorough in covering Gov. Pawlenty's reaction and work to this development. The governor just returned home from a trip to India and only recently learned from the U.S. Department of Commerce about the possible problem. Pawlenty is supposedly trying to investigate the possible link.

Craigslist ad ends in slaying

Both the Star Tribune and the Pioneer Press are intensively covering the circumstances surrounding the death of a 24-year old Savage woman. Apparently Katherine Ann Olson was responding to a Craigslist ad for a nanny position when she was reported missing by her roommate on Friday. Her body was found in the trunk of her car parked in a lot at the Rudy Kraemer Nature Preserve in Burnsville. A 19 year old Savage man is suspected in the murder. Both newspapers have covered a lot of angles since this story began. The Pioneer Press has been more thorough in my opinion. One article in particular frames the tragedy in the broader context of online advertising in general and Craigslist in particular. In doing so the PP has found many more voices to help tell the story. It is interesting to note as well that the PP has released the name of the 19-year old suspect of Savage: Michael John Anderson. The PP cites the information from looking at the Scott County Jail's online roster; certainly public information. I wonder what the Strib's reasons could be in not identifying the subject whose name is public and "of age". Instead the Strib refers to the County's investigation as "tight-lipped". This story is interesting because it is only the third murder in Savage since its founding and supposedly the first murder linked directly to the popular classifieds website Craigslist.

October 21, 2007

Turkish-Kurdish Iraqi (and U.S.) relations seething

A cross-border raid by PKK Kurdish militants left 17 Turkish soldiers and 32 PKK militants dead adding fuel to the bordering nations firey relations.

The Washington Post is reporting that Abdul Rahman al-Chaderchi, a PKK spokesman, said the Kurdish fighters attacked because Turkish troops were conducting war games late Saturday near the border. He said that the death toll was higher than Turkey reported and that several soldiers were being held prisoner. And precariously, in the middle of all of this, is the United States attempting to dampen the calls for a retaliatory Turkish military incursion into Northern Iraq.

The New York Times are reporting the reaction of the heads of state in Iraq, Turkey and the U.S.: The White House has said, “Attacks from Iraqi territory need to be dealt with swiftly by the Iraqi government and the Kurdish regional authorities.?

But Turkish officials are not satisfied with posturing by the U.S. : Turkish officials said Sunday that rhetoric would no longer help. “Statements on terror will not satisfy us,? Cemil Cicek, a government spokesman, said in a televised news conference. “In terms of statements, there has been nothing left unspoken. We expected and will expect firm steps from our counterparts. At this point, there is no importance of anything said by anyone.?

The attacks also come while a non-binding resolution in congress is processed declaring the conflict in the early 20th century between Turkey and Armenia GENOCIDE.

Minnesota's common sense: no to fed abstinence only funding

Last month, for the first time in a decade, Minnesota officials quietly said no thank you to $500,000 in federal abstinence-only money. That leaves a budget of only $331,000 for a statewide program that as recently as 2004 received $2 million. The decision comes amidst a broader national debate of the value of abstinence-only sex education.
Earlier this year, Gov. Tim Pawlenty threatened to veto the state's budget bill because it included language that would have made comprehensive sex education the law. That provision was withdrawn.
Congress is now considering whether to increase abstinence-only funding, which now totals $175 million a year.
And the U.S. Senate is expected to vote next week on whether the sex education that money pays for must include scientifically based information:

Similarly MPR has a story on a Portland, Maine middle school that is allowing access to birth control. The two guests on the mid-morning show were Brigid Riley: Executive director of Minnesota Organization on Adolescent Pregnancy, Prevention & Parenting (MOAPPP) and Janice Crouse: Senior fellow at a conservative think tank called Concerned Women for America. They blandly put forth their opinions each claiming reality is on each other's side.

October 14, 2007

Finally, a land agreement for Twins' Stadium

Landowners and Hennipen County have reached a settlement on the price of the property for the future site of the Twins' stadium. Thie settlement will finally, remove what is considered the final barrier in the construction of the $522 million baseball stadium. As part of the settlement, niether party will comment until 10am monday. The discrepancy between the two parties was the price of the land. The land owners priced at $32 million and Hennipen County offered $19 million. According to the Strib, this settlement, with a separate closed agreement between the county and landowners will allow the $90 million allocated to build infrastructure to be freed of picking up the higher land cost and avoids having to sacrifice planned elements of the stadium and its integration to downtown Minneapolis. It seems that finally tempers have quieted and the planned stadium set to be finished in 2010 will continue for the forseeable future, conflict-free.

Finally, A reciprocity agreement

Students in Wisconsin and Minnesota worried about the fate of the reciprocity program between the two states can finally relax. The University of Minnesota Board of Regents FINALLY passed a reworked agreement between the two states last Friday. It was on the agenda last month, but the AFSCME strikes disrupted the meeting. The agreement has already been approved in Wisconsin and by the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system. The University of Minnesota had said the institution was losing $7 million a year in a lopsided program that allowed Wisconsin students cheaper tuition at Minnesota universities than Minnesotan students. The state of Wisconsin is to make up the difference. The Strib published a very short story on this motion. The final sentence barely mentions the real controversy, the real disagreement. Wisconsin claimed that the money was paid but because the money went into Minnesota's general fund it was not counted. The new agreement irons out this problem.

October 7, 2007

Funding for 35 bridge stalled

MPR is reporting that only $55 million of the $250 million dollars promised by the Federal government to rebuild the bridge has been received. The remainder of the money is stuck in federal budget negotiations. A special panel of state lawmakers are set to meet later this week to discuss authorizing state money in the bridge's reconstruction. It is interesting to note that MPR's story has a picture of George Bush on his visit in August and Bush's quote that the bridge will be rebuilt as "quick as possible" putting a focus and assumed blame on Bush while the article neatly states that it is congress at fault for the slow transaction of promised funding. There are other state lawmakers who feel uneasy about the decision to authorize state funding is left to a select few, rather than the entire body. Also MNDOT is expecting a crisis of funds and the new bridge's pricetag of $393 million has no guarantee of remaining the same.

Coverage Law Mystery

In 1971, the state legislature passed a law requiring employers who recruit five or more migrant workers to provide them with health insurance and yet the law was never enforced. There were never any rules written for it and no one in government today remembers the reasoning behind the 1971 Legislature. Even the Department of Labor, whose responsible for the enforcement of the law was unaware of the 1971 law's existence.
The Star Tribune is reporting that around the 35-40,000 migrant workers in Minnesota each year would be eligible for health care according to this law.

"The law was passed and then sat on the books for 30 years," said Rep. Carlos Mariani, DFL-St. Paul. Rep. Mariani is planning to create more state oversight for migrant worker service next session.

The law came out of the 60's and from Cesar Chavez's heyday. An expert in migrant worker services said no other state has a law like this 1971 law. The Spokesman for the Labor Department said that the department was "baffled" when they realized the existence of the law but said the time for making rules for the law passed in 1997.

Honerman, as a spokesman, felt that the story was well-done and in a lighthearted suprising manner that closely resembles the department's own surprise.

September 30, 2007

Coleman Ad Takes Franken To Task

MPR and the Strib are following the first punches thrown between Sen. Coleman and DFL Senate candidate Al Franken over a advertisement criticizing Gen. Petrau. Coleman says Franken supports. TheStrib seem to slant in favor of Franken. For instance the article in the Strib only uses the ad and Franken's spokesman as sources. MPR has quotes from Coleman and Franken and mentions other aspects of this already heating up race. The piece in the strib is from the AP and mentions at the very end that the cost of Franken's ad linking Coleman to President Bush costed $32,000 whereas the Coleman ad criticizing Franken's involvement with costed only $23,000. To which then the AP article said the Strib had no comment.

September 16, 2007

Police still searching for clues in Cyclist's death

Police continued their investigation Saturday into the violent death of a man who had been riding his bicycle in south Minneapolis.

Mark Loesch, 41, of Minneapolis, died of multiple blunt-force head impacts, the Hennepin County Medical Examiner's office said Saturday. His death was ruled a homicide.

He was the 35th homicide victim in Minneapolis this year.

There have been several other incidents of cyclists being beaten for no apparent reason.

New Chaska Party Law

A new law passed by the Chaska City Council last Monday makes people criminally liable for allowing underage drinking on their property even if they don't provide the alcohol. And its the first ordinance of its kind in Minnesota. The City decided to pass the measure after becoming impatient with the County's (Carver) slow progress on the issue.

"Frankly, we're tired of waiting," said Chaska Police Chief Scott Knight. "This needs to happen, and it needs to happen now."

County officials were wary of a bill passing and considered the law a "cultural thing".

When it comes to hosting the party, "the law is silent," Knight said. "This is one of those 'Aha!' moments. Of course there is a gap in the law, and of course this would solve it."

The law carries the possibility of a $1000 fine and up to 90 days in jail.

Ealier this year a 19 year old boy froze to death after leaving a party drunk from alcohol provided by an adult.